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Delaware Superior Court rules that New Jersey “verbal threshold” requirements do not preclude a Delaware insured from making a claim against her own uninsured motorist coverage for her “pain and suffering” damages.

In the case of Aneita Patterson v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Delaware Superior Court Judge Joseph R. Slights, III, in an order dated October 29, 2008, denies summary judgment to defendant State Farm and re-affirms and adopts the prior 2004 Delaware Superior Court holding of Kent v. Nationwide Property and Casualty Insurance Co., 844 A.2d at 1092. In both decisions a New Jersey insurance company had denied the claim of a Delaware resident occupying a motor vehicle registered in Delaware who was involved in a car accident in the State of New Jersey with a New Jersey resident because the New Jersey insurance company, in this case Allstate, contended that Plaintiff’s injuries did not meet the “verbal threshold” requirements of New Jersey law thus precluding the Plaintiffs from making a claim for “pain and suffering” damages in the State of New Jersey.

Plaintiff than made a claim for uninsured motorist benefits against her own Delaware insurance company, State Farm, pursuant to her uninsured motorist coverage. State Farm moved for summary judgment contending that the New Jersey vehicle was not an uninsured vehicle for purposes of Delaware law.

The court held:
“…the relationship between the parties here arises from a contract between a Delaware citizen and an insurance company registered to do business in Delaware. The contract was entered into and the premiums were paid in Delaware. The policy relates to a vehicle registered in Delaware and the scope of the coverage provided in the policy is governed by Delawae statutes. The public policy of Delaware expressed in its uninsured motorist statute, is to permit a Delaware motorist “to take to the roads” knowing that a certain amount of protection will always be available.” Aetna v. Kenner, 570 A.2d at 1172 (Del. 1990). “The legislative intent of 18 Del. C. Section 3902 (link) is to protect people injured by tortfeasors carrying little or no insurance.” Deptula v. Horace Mann, 842 A.2d at 1235 (Del. Supr. 2004) “And, just as in Kent it is clear Delaware has the most significant relationship to the issue presented. [Citation omitted] Under the circumstances presented here, the Delaware underinsured motorist statute requires that the tortfeasor be considered uninsured in order to achieve the legislative objection fo that statute.”

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